Woman in RI State-Run Group Home Dies, Prompting Criminal Investigation

By Gina Macris

The death of a 70 year-old woman with developmental disabilities in February has prompted the state of Rhode Island to order the group home where she lived to close in the next seven days,  health and human services officials announced March 18. 

The death of the woman, who had an untreated leg fracture, occurred after several allegations of abuse during the last year at the state-run home, College Park Apartments at 612 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Providence.

Health and human services officials have called in the state’s attorney general and the Rhode Island State Police to investigate.

The state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) has placed five employees of the group home on immediate paid leave and will provide strict supervision of the rest of the staff as they work to resettle other residents,  according to a statement from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The remaining 14 residents at College Park Apartments are all to move to other housing before the group home closes next week.

The woman, who was not identified, was sent to  Roger Williams Hospital Feb. 9 for  what the staff reported was a bad bruise, but an x-ray determined that it was a broken thigh bone. The wound was infected, according to a BHDDH spokeswoman. . 

Linda Reilly, the spokeswoman, said the woman improved in the hospital and was sent to a nursing home, but the infection became worse and she was readmitted to the hospital, where she died Feb. 15.

An autopsy has been done but a report has not yet been completed, Reilly said in an email. 

College Park Apartments is both licensed and operated by BHDDH. Its internal investigation unit had responded to multiple reports of mistreatment and abuse in the past year, the department director, Maria Montanaro said at a press conference. .

“We will not tolerate mistreatment of patients anywhere in Rhode Island, including and especially inside group homes under our management. And we will not hesitate to close a group home when residents are at risk,” Montanaro said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts said, “Injuries and mistreatment at the College Park Apartments are unacceptable.”

Going forward, she has ordered the state Department of Health to work with BHDDH on “targeted investigations” of group homes throughout the state.

The state-run network of group homes and apartments for people with developmental disabilities, called Rhode Island Community Living and Supports (RICLAS), houses 210 individuals. That number is 16 percent of about 1,300 people with intellectual challenges living in group homes in Rhode Island. The majority of the group home residents are served by private agencies.